Ibrahim al-Asiri is the accused Saudi Arabian terrorist suspected of being the chief bomb-maker of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). His face has been splashed all over the news this week during the current terror threat, which has closed several U.S. embassies. Why are we so concerned about him, and why now? Here’s what you need to know.
1. He is Deputy Leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula
Meet al Qaeda's master bomb-maker – Brian Todd reports on Ibrahim al-Asiri, al Qaeda's master bomb-maker who could… http://t.co/OtCZ3rKfX6
— Mohamed Darwish ♔ (@kingdarwish99) August 6, 2013
Ibrahim al-Asiri is the deputy leader of AQAP and is suspected of being its main explosives expert. His brother, Abdullah al-Asiri, died in a suicide bombing on August 2009 while attempting to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of the Interior, Muhammad bin Nayef.
2. He’s a Notorious Bomb Maker
Al-Asiri is the suspected mastermind behind several explosive devices including the underwear bomb and surgically implanted body bombs. He was reported to have made the bombs used by his brother in his suicide bombing, the 2009 Christmas Day bomb plot, the 2010 cargo plane bomb plot and the 2012 Terror Plot.
3. He is Listed as One of Yemen’s Top 25 Terrorists
According to the National Post, Al-Asiri was just listed among Yemen’s 25 top terrorists believed to have been planning terrorist attacks targeting “foreign offices and organizations and Yemeni installations” in the capital Sana’a and other cities across the country. In 2009, he and his brother were named on a list of Saudi Arabia’s most wanted terrorist suspects.
4. There is a $23K Reward for Information Leading to His Capture
The Yemeni government is offering 5 million Yemeni rials, or $23,000, for information leading to the capture of any of al-Asiri or any of the terrorists on the list.
5. He is Thought to be Behind a New Clothing Bomb
Is flying nude the only response to the new Al Qaeda 'clothing bomb'? http://t.co/iQJZ7Phezc
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) August 5, 2013
The man is thought to be responsible for the development of a new bombing tactic that allows terrorists to dip ordinary clothing into a liquid explosive, turning the clothes themselves into explosives “once dry,” reports Rhonda Schwartz and James Gordon Meek of ABC. The new technique cannot be detected by current security measures.
“It’s ingenious,” a Transportation Security Administration official said.
6. He Manufactured the Underwear Bomb
— Tim Sumner (@SgtTim911) August 6, 2013
Al-Asiri is also believed to be behind the “underwear bomb.” The improvised explosive device can be hidden men’s underwear and go undetected. The device was used in the 2009 Christmas Day attack and almost succeeded in blowing up a passenger jet, but severely burned the would-be terrorist’s groin instead. A “new and improved” version of the device was obtained by spy agencies last year.
7. Spy Agencies are Also Concerned with ‘Frankenbombers’
In addition, a U.S. official said American spy agencies are concerned about so-called “Frankenbombers,” suicide bombers who could carry an IED sewn into their body.
8. A TSA Official Declined to Comment on the New Liquid Device
“As always, our security posture, which at all times includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, will continue to respond appropriately to protect the American people from an ever evolving threat picture,” said the official. “I am not in a position to discuss any intelligence around this current threat. But, as a general matter TSA screens both passengers and carry-on baggage for metallic and non-metallic prohibited items, including weapons and explosives. To do this, TSA uses the best available imaging technology to safely screen passengers for any concealed items.”
9. Nearly Two Dozen U.S. Embassies Were Shut Down Sunday
A total of 21 U.S. embassies and consulates in North Africa and the Middle East were shut down Sunday after the U.S. intercepted communications between the leadership of AQAP and al Qaeda’s remaining leadership in Pakistan that suggested a major operation was in progress. They are expected to remain closed for the time being.
“It’s a very credible threat and it’s based on intelligence,” Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee said. “What we have to do now is the most important issue, is protect Americans throughout the world.”
10. The U.S. Government is Taking Extra Precautions
Update: Federal air marshal is on board American Airlines flight 34, Reporting all clear.
— YidNews Alert (@YidAlerts) September 11, 2011
Along with the embassy and consulate closings, the U.S. government is taking extra precautions by increasing the use of federal air marshals on U.S.-bound flights.